Now, before you freak out, this is not referring to the gaming community in general; in fact, the majority of the gaming community is absolutely delightful. What this is referring to though is the toxicity and disgusting practices that go on while playing games with other players through online services on home consoles. Much of this seemed to stem in the beginning from Xbox Live in the mid-2000s when it launched, but, it has even infected PlayStation Plus as their online infrastructure has become more developed. Gaming online simply isn’t fun anymore, and for me, this began when I started playing Halo 3 online. It honestly makes me think that Nintendo may have online gaming right, although they need a few tweaks; allow voice chat with friends-only. On other platforms, get rid of general voice chat altogether, because the practices that are shown on both Microsoft and Sony’s platforms are absolutely disgusting.
One of the thing that shocks me is that it isn’t just the pre-pubescent 12-year-olds who are responsible for the endless amount of expletives, harassment (sexual and otherwise), and reprehensible behavior. Many of these gamers are grown men. It’s absolutely sickening and there is no short of sexism displayed. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition actually has a really wonderful setup for multiplayer; there is both a competitive and a casual mode. There are still people playing the casual mode though who will either tell you what a horrible player you are or even go as far as telling you you shouldn’t have been born and should commit suicide (real experience). Casual mode is not meant to be MLG-pro but to be enjoyable for someone like, for instance, me, who hasn’t actually played Gears competitively online for four years and simply wants to enjoy myself. In one match, I was playing Gnasher 2V2, an exclusive mode for Ultimate Edition, and my teammate actually killed me in the first two rounds so he could get the kills against the opposing team. This is supposed to be a team match, yet people are so eager to simply look out for themselves alone to improve their own stats instead of working together, which is what online gaming is supposed to be about.
As bad as these instances are though, they cannot even compare to what I have experienced and observed in Call of Duty, and recently Destiny on the Playstation 4. The things I went through in Call of Duty I can’t even repeat because it was so profane and abusive, and when looking for groups to play raids with on Destiny things could be even worse. Using LFG (an online system that allows you to find groups to play with for games like Destiny) is a nightmare and playing with randoms is usually an abusive experience, even if you’re a good player. If you’re female, well, it’s an inevitability. This is not just a problem on the Microsoft or Sony platforms, but a problem with the gaming industry as a whole. The sad thing is though, in all likelihood, there is no way to fix this. When people hide behind a moniker they think they can say hateful, hurtful things, and harass people simply because they can get away with it. There are some great experiences I have had online while playing both Playstation and Xbox, but it has been far outweighed by my negative experiences, and I’m not the only one who has encountered these issues.
A part of the problem is the fact that parents don’t pay close attention to what their children are playing or simply do not care, as games like Call of Duty and Gears of War are rated M for a reason: they are not meant for younger audiences. Children don’t have fully developed minds and while they are intelligent and fascinating, they don’t comprehend the consequences of their actions and words; this is a fact of life. It is up to the parents to supervise their children’s behavior and monitor what they are playing, but that just doesn’t happen, and that is in part why we’re in the situation that we’re in regarding online gaming. Retailers are also to blame because in a lot of cases they simply do not care if they are selling these games to those under the age of 17. When I get carded for an M game, I usually welcome it.
The other reason is the anonymity of the internet. People think they can get away with whatever they want because they aren’t using their real name and there will be no real-world consequences just because it’s online gaming. There’s no accountability. I have been told to kill myself, that my mom should have eaten me when I was born (what does that even mean?), that my family will be murdered, etc. The rest I cannot repeat. It is sickening and disheartening and makes me not even want to play games anymore, even though this is what I do for a living and I love it. It truly makes me think, does Nintendo have it right when it comes to online interactivity on the Wii U?
I do believe that Nintendo needs to be a little bit more lax and allow voice chat with friends in private parties that can act cross-software, much like Sony and Microsoft allow, but I think that’s it. You should only be allowed to talk to people who are on your friends list and only be allowed to use voice chat if you are over the age of 13. It may seem a little restricting, but because of how toxic the online gaming community has become, many people stick to party chats anyway to avoid all the negativity. Nintendo was even considering voice chat with Tri Force Heroes, but because of play tests where players were bullied, they opted for communication with icons instead, which actually worked very well.
The gaming community has to step up and gamers, developers, publishers, and anyone affiliated with the industry must denounce this despicable behavior. It has gone too far and not only has a horrible impact on innocent kids who are just trying to play a game, like a T-rated title such as Destiny, but kills people’s enjoyment of gaming. What should be a fun experience that brings us closer together as both human beings and gamers is actually tearing us apart. Online gaming is supposed to be enjoyable, not the current nightmare it has become.